Dominique Bassil Sentenced to 17 Years in Stabbing Death of Boyfriend

Dominique Bassil was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday for the stabbing death of her boyfriend, Vance Harris II following a wedding in August 2011.

Bassil was found guilty of second-degree murder in Harris’ death in November.

In a sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson told the court that Harris’ death was a case of domestic violence and that the case “highlights that men are victims of domestic violence just like women.”

At trial, Bassil’s attorney, Madeline Harvey, argued that Bassil stabbed Harris in self-defense. She asked the jury to believe what Bassil told them when she testified at trial: that Harris was drunk and agitated after a wedding reception where the two apparently argued and that Bassil had reason to be scared of him.

“He was a manly type of man, not some kind of softy,” Harvey said of Harris in her closing arguments. “Just because his friends say he didn’t get angry at the wedding, does not mean that he did not go home and beat his woman, which is exactly what happened.”

Judge Robert Morin said he wasn’t convinced by the defense’s arguments and found some of Bassil’s actions after her arrest, including that she tried to use Harris’ Social Security number for unemployment benefits and tried to pay a bill with one of his checking accounts, troubling.

He acknowledged, though, that Bassil had no prior criminal record before her murder conviction.

The reality is, there are only two people that know what happened,” Morin said, “and one of them is unable to tell his side of the story.”

Several of Harris’ family members described him as a gentle, supportive man who worked several jobs to provide for his family. His mother told the court that Harris had reached the rank of Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts.

Before sentencing On Friday, Harvey asked sentencing judge Robert Morin to overturn the jury’s verdict, arguing that the jury didn’t follow proper case law when it decided that Bassil didn’t act in self-defense.

Morin denied the motion.

Sentencing documents are below.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office is below:

WASHINGTON– Dominique Bassil, 26, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 17 years of incarceration on a charge of second-degree murder while armed in the stabbing and killing of her boyfriend, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

Bassil was found guilty of the charge in November 2012 by a jury in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. She was sentenced by the Honorable Robert E. Morin. Upon completion of her prison term, Bassil will be placed on five years of supervised release.

According to evidence at trial, on Aug. 12, 2011, Bassil and her boyfriend, Vance Harris II, 28, attended an evening wedding and reception in Mitchellville, Md. During the evening, Bassil complained that Mr. Harris, a member of the wedding party, was not spending enough time with her. At the end of the reception, a witness observed Bassil berate Mr. Harris and push him in his face as he talked to others. Another witness observed Bassil strike Mr. Harris as the witness suggested to him that he get a hotel room instead of going home with the defendant.

After Bassil and Mr. Harris left the reception, police officers in Capitol Heights, Md. encountered them on the side of a road. Bassil complained that she was tired of arguing, fussing, and fighting with Mr. Harris. Police observed that Mr. Harris’s tuxedo had been torn. Bassil, however, had no injuries and her clothes were intact. Police permitted the two to travel home after neither complained of an assault.

On Aug. 13, 2011, just before 2:30 a.m., Bassil and Mr. Harris returned to Bassil’s apartment in the 3900 block of 13th Street SE. About 20 minutes later, surveillance footage depicted Bassil exiting her building wearing only a pink night cap and panties while armed with a knife. The footage also captured her disposing of the knife in a trash can before going to the security guard booth to report that she stabbed her boyfriend because he was beating her.

Seconds after Bassil had exited the building, surveillance footage captured Mr. Harris briefly exiting the front door of the building holding a stab wound to his arm that was dripping blood. Mr. Harris returned to the apartment on the third floor of the building, only to discover that he was locked out. After knocking on a neighbor’s door for help, Mr. Harris fell unconscious in the hallway, where he eventually died from his injuries. A medical examiner found that Mr. Harris had a stab wound to the abdomen that penetrated the liver and two stab wounds to the right arm that partially severed an artery.

Upon the defendant’s arrest, in a statement to police, she alleged that Mr. Harris had pulled her hair, pushed her to the ground, and dragged her. The police investigation revealed that Bassil had no visible injuries, although she complained of back pain. According to medical personnel, no tenderness was found in the area where she complained of pain.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the detectives, officers and others who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department. He also commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Investigator Nelson Rhone, Jr.; Litigation Technology Specialists Anisha Bhatia, Joshua Ellen, William Henderson, Paul Howell, and Kimberly Smith; Victim Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, Victim Witness Specialist David Foster, Paralegal Specialists Kelly Blakeney and Kwasi Fields; Intern Jason Amirhadji, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Cobb, who investigated the case, and Michelle D. Jackson, who prosecuted the case.

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